Anyone who flicks through the digital pages of this website will know I am a massive fan of prime lenses. There is a mathematical simplicity at only working at fixed focal lengths and historically images from prime lenses were always been credited as being sharper than their zoom lens equivalent.
I’ve been using the XF 16-55mm F/2.8 R LM WRN lens over the last month alongside the Fujfilm XF 16mm f/1.4 prime lens. To be completely honest I wasn’t sure that the 16-55mm would really suit my style of photography but after an initial walk alongside the Glen river in the Mourne mountains it was clear this lens was really going to challenge my thinking.
One of the big reasons that the Fujifilm X100 range of cameras (see below, captured with the XF 16-55mm) is at the top of my all-time favourite cameras is the fact it offers a 35mm field of view. 35mm is the middle ground, it gives the best of both worlds, a medium wide for landscapes but it isn’t so wide it distorts close up photographs of people. If you want to document a range of subjects the 35mm focal length covers all the bases.
Shooting with a prime lens involves a degree of compromise, there are times when you would love to shoot wider and times you’d love to able to be in a little tighter. The XF 16-55mm brings the image quality of the prime lens to an ultra-versatile, weather sealed, all purpose powerhouse.
I took a walk up Donard with the XF16-55mm with a group of friends, it was great to be able to capture landscapes at 16mm and a moment later be capturing portraits at 55mm f/2.8. I have to acknowledge this lens is large and heavy and it took me a few hours to get used to the balance when locked on the X-T1. I was hiking up Northern Ireland’s largest mountain and the X-T1 with the 16-55mm still felt comfortable at the end of my Blackrapid strap.
The 16-55mm has a similar, impressive build quality to the 16mm, the construction is solid, the lens feels robust and ready for use in the demanding outdoors. The weather protection is a notable addition to the range, the zoom motion is smooth and there was no slipping of the barrel when carried over my shoulder all day in the mountains.
If you look carefully at the image (above) you will see the people on the bottom righthand side of the frame. The views from Donard’s saddle are quite spectacular.
The supplied lens hod works well at reducing glare but the Nano-GI (Gradient Index) coating technology makes it extra special. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to use my Lee Seven5 filter system with the 16-55. The largest adaptor on offer is 72mm but the 16-55mm has a 77mm filter thread, as a result a set of 100mm is likely to be needed.
Thanks to a linear motor the autofocus is near silent, fast and accurate. It really is a performance lens both when used ultra wide or when used as a telephoto portrait lens.
Outing Two : The Brandy Pad
In an attempt to decide between the 16mm and the 16-55mm (as I can’t afford both) I decided to head back into the mountains with both lenses. When I shoot at 14mm or 16mm I do, on occasion crop images in Adobe Lightroom to adjust the composition, this isn’t ideal as the resultant image isn’t going to be as high a quality as the original capture. It was brilliant to be able to zoom and compose the shot exactly as I wanted thanks to the 16-55mm zoom range.
I wanted to find fault with this zoom lens so that the decision to invest in the 16mm prime would be simple but despite the size this lens is absolutely amazing.
The 16-55mm has surpassed my expectations, it is stunning in every way, it is the sheer versatility that makes the 16-55mm a very desirable lens, capable of product shots, portraits and wide angle landscapes it is master of all trades.
The f/2.8 aperture is slightly slower than the 16mm prime but yet it still offers excellent low light performance and really attractive bokeh (see the X100 shot). I’d obviously love it to be smaller and lighter but these are fair pay offers for versatility, faultless image quality and weather resistance. To chose between the XF 16mm and the XF 16-55mm is tortuous challenge, they are both near perfect and I suspect whichever I chose I will always pine for the other.